Amb. (ret.) Lawrence Rossin, Senior International Coordinator at the Save Darfur Coalition, is responsible for designing and leading implementation of the Coalition’s outreach to foreign governments and non-governmental organizations to advocate on behalf of the people of Darfur. Rossin joined the Coalition after serving as Assistant Secretary General and Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, and as part of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. He has also served in a number of diplomatic positions in the U.S. Department of State.
This weekend’s third Global Day for Darfur was a powerful and timely expression of the worldwide demand for an end now to the genocide in Darfur, and for firm action by world leaders to achieve that critical goal.
From Austria to Mauritius to Jordan, Nigeria to Mongolia to Bahrain, Pittsburgh to Bamako to Budapest, and at over 400 locations in as many as 40 countries, people of conscience gathered at rallies, marches, “die-ins,” conferences, vigils and other events to demonstrate their solidarity with those suffering in Darfur, and their impatience with governments that have failed to match action to their tough words about the killing, or indeed have failed to take any positive stand at all. Everywhere, the call was for the immediate deployment of UN peacekeepers and for severe pressure on President al-Bashir and the other genocide authors to end their obstruction. From event to event, participants also called for pressure on China and Arab League states to use their influence to change Khartoum’s behavior, for strong and comprehensive sanctions targeted at Sudan’s leadership to change their calculations, for imposition of a no-fly zone to prevent Sudanese aerial bombardment, for divestment by companies and funds from investments that help underwrite the Sudanese government’s genocide, and/or for more-effective support for humanitarian aid and access to all the people of Darfur for aid workers.
The diversity of action calls, linked by the thread of demands for peacekeepers now, underscored the core message of all these worldwide events: “Time is up.” Time is certainly running out for the vulnerable displaced in Darfur and for those hundreds of thousands beyond the reach of aid, as this tragedy goes into its fifth year. And it should definitely be up for the Khartoum regime.
Yet the willingness of our leaders to read the best into President al-Bashir’s actions, or hope past reason, seems endless. Many countries – not just China, Russia and South Africa, but also Germany and many other EU member states – are showing their gratitude to al-Bashir for his tardy acceptance of the incremental, 3,000-strong UN “Phase II Heavy Support Package,” by opposing sanctions that might achieve deployment of the full Phase III, 22,500-strong peacekeeping force and to end the killing. The United States is still dallying – how many more “weeks” will President Bush give Ban Ki-moon’s diplomacy, when the Secretary-General can describe no imminent progress with al-Bashir? Has he forgotten what his own Special Envoy Andrew Natsios told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month, that Ban had asked for and been granted “two to four weeks” at the beginning of April for his diplomacy? That time is up. The famous “Plan B” sanctions and more than that should be imposed this week. And how can Mr. Natsios, claim that Sudan is “falling into line” on the full Phase III peacekeeping force deployment, as he did this week from a conference in Libya? President al-Bashir may be the only international leader speaking clearly on Darfur – he “just says ‘no,’” again and again. And he gets away with it, again and again.
President Bush, Mr. Natsios, President Hu, President Mubarak, Chancellor Merkel, Secretary-General Ban, and all those with the ability to change Khartoum’s behavior and make it end this genocide would do well to heed the tens of thousands of voices raised around the world this weekend. Those people of conscience have been right all along. Following their calls for action would take our governments past their moral ambiguity and failed diplomacy. It would be the beginning of the end of the massive death and displacement in Darfur.